Last weekend, I was immersed in the Pierogi Fest in Whiting. I offered three Masses at our local parishes on Saturday and Sunday. I agreed to be one of the judges for the Best Pierogi Contest. With 14 vendors in the competition, let’s just say I was quite full by the end of those two days. Even while trying to fast prior to the judging, any hunger I had was more than satisfied.
When we are physically hungry, we begin to exhibit a few symptoms. In addition to a growling stomach, we can become tired and listless. We might become irritable and lose focus. Of course, sustained hunger and starvation can have serious long-term health consequences. Our body tells us we need nourishment.
The signs of physical hunger are obvious. The signs of spiritual hunger are also very real, yet we sometimes don’t recognize them. When we are spiritually hungry, we might find ourselves tired and listless. We might experience a restlessness, an unsettled feeling. We may feel unsatisfied, but perhaps don’t know why.
These are some signs of spiritual hunger. Saint Mother Teresa put it this way: “The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality.There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
God wants to nourish us. He wants to strengthen us and give us hope and healing. This is the message Jesus imparts in the Bread of Life discourse in this summer’s readings from the Gospel of John: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn 6:35)
In response to spiritual hunger, we often look to be satisfied by things that have little meaning. This is the time to turn to Jesus, to open our hearts to Him. Invite Jesus to meet your deepest needs and longings. He loves us and wants to bring nourishment that leads to eternal life.
In the Eucharist we have a profound expression of this love. Jesus offers himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. This sacrament offers us the Real Presence of Jesus, given to us to nurture and sustain us.
What happens when our hunger is satisfied? We have the energy we need to go forth in service. As our body is replenished, we have the fuel we need to go forth in action. When our spirit is strengthened, we have the energy to go forward in mission.
Jesus’ gift of the Eucharist certainly provides spiritual nourishment and personal satisfaction. That satisfaction leads us to mission. We have the energy to reach out in loving service to our sisters and brothers. We are filled with desire to share the good news. We are inspired to help meet their needs – both physical and spiritual.
If your heart is restless and unsettled, let the Lord fill you with His love. Let’s turn to Jesus for spiritual sustenance. Strengthened by Him, let’s meet the needs of a hungry world.
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary